The sad truth: You can crunch yourself into a coma and still have ab flab. If you really want a sleek, sexy midriff, you’ve got to tweak your diet. All of the best waist-whittling foods contain fiber to banish bloat, antioxidants to boost your abs routine’s effectiveness, and protein to help maintain a healthy metabolism. Here, the top 10 choices for flatter abs.
These delicious and versatile nuts contain filling protein and fiber, not to mention vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. They’re also a good source of magnesium, a mineral your body must have in order to produce energy, build and maintain muscle tissue, and regulate blood sugar. “A stable blood-sugar level helps prevent cravings that can lead to overeating and weight gain,” says David Katz, MD, a professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. But what makes almonds most interesting is their ability to block calories. Research indicates that the composition of their cell walls may help reduce the absorption of all of their fat, making them an extra-lean nut.
Try for: An ounce a day (about 23 almonds), with approximately 160 calories. An empty Altoids tin will hold your daily dose perfectly.
You won’t find a more perfect protein source. Eggs are highly respected by dietitians because of their balance of essential amino acids (protein building blocks used by your body to manufacture everything from muscle fibers to brain chemicals). We like them because they keep our hands out of the cookie jar. Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that when people ate eggs in the morning, they felt less hungry throughout the day than when breakfast consisted of complex carbohydrates like bagels. “The protein and fat in the egg may be contributing to the feeling of satiety,” says lead researcher Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, PhD.
Try for: One egg a day, unless you have high blood cholesterol, in which case you should check with your doctor first. (One egg packs about 213 milligrams of cholesterol.)
Soybeans are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile. Snack on dry-roasted soybeans, toss shelled edamame into soups, and slip a spoonful of silken tofu into your morning smoothie. Liquid soy also makes a good meal replacement: A study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that overweight subjects who drank a soy milk–based meal replacement lost more weight than those who consumed a traditional dairy-based diet drink.
Try for: Twenty-five grams of whole (not isolated) soy protein daily. A half cup of steamed edamame contains about 130 calories and 11 grams of protein. Four ounces of tofu (94 calories) contain 10 grams. Choose whole soy foods over products packed with “isolated soy protein” — the latter may not provide all the benefits of whole soybeans.
A 2003 study in the journal Nutrition found that overweight women who consumed three apples or pears a day for three months lost more weight than their counterparts who were fed a similar diet with oat cookies instead of fruits. “A large apple has five grams of fiber, but it’s also nearly 85 percent water, which helps you feel full,” explains Elisa Zied, RD, author of So What Can I Eat?! (Wiley, 2006). Apples also contain quercetin, a compound shown to help fight certain cancers, reduce cholesterol damage, and promote healthy lungs.
Try for: An apple (or two) a day. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the Red Delicious, Cortland, and Northern Spy varieties had the highest antioxidant activity.